All-Star break is upon us this weekend, which signifies that we are already halfway through the first half of the season. So lets take a quick look on the our journey through the first half and assess how we’re moving into the second half.
Weathering through the Storm
Looking back it was an incredibly long one full of injuries. It seemed like it was never ending. Even as the puck dropped for the Ducks’ home opener, fans were taken aback learning that Captain Ryan Getzlaf would be sitting it out. It just went on from there—Hampus Lindholm, then-Duck Sami Vatanen, Ryan Miller and Ryan Kesler still recovering from post-season surgery, and the drop-the-hammer news of Patrick Eaves’ diagnosis. Between them, we had Ducks in and out of the line-up with concussions and injuries galore. No need to get into the details but needless to say, we all knew this was the rough part of the season and with the help of John Gibson, we hoped to weather the storm.
You know that scene in Star Wars—where Luke first discovers Leah’s recorded message, “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi—you’re my only hope”? Well basically that was all of our messages to John Gibson during this period of trial. Help us John Gibson—you’re our only hope. And dear lawd did he do everything in his nimble acrobatic goaltending abilities to help the Anaheim Ducks survive the first half. It is a downright miracle that the Anaheim Ducks were not dead last in the West much less the Pacific. With more than a few of those highlight reel saves, the Anaheim Ducks managed to stay afloat and stay within view of the competitive wild card spot. Beyond looking at the actual numbers, John Gibson (as we have been arguing all along) deserves a Vezina mention at the end of the season. Even though the Ducks didn’t give him much offensive support, he kept most of the games close on paper when it could have easily gone the other way. There’s no way to reflect on our current standings without giving more than a few nods towards Gibby’s direction.
I’ve always had few reservations about Gibby because of his past on longevity. There have been a couple of (post) seasons in which Gibby went out at a pivotal time due to (groin) injuries. There were questions as to his durability, and perhaps these questions should be directed towards GM Bob Murray and him overplaying Gibby. Nonetheless, Gibby, up until last night has been absolutely resilient and rose to the need despite probably playing more than he should’ve.
Look at Us Now
Last night, Gibby left the game after a collision with Blake Wheeler. We all pray and hope it isn’t serious. But we’ve seen this happen before and fortunately we do have a viable back-up in Ryan Miller. And in most of his rare appearances this season, Ryan Miller has been quite good—probably more than good. In the second half of the season, expect to see more of Ryan Miller in net as the Ducks stabilize their offense.
Randy Carlyle had the difficult job in the first half of the season of mixing and matching lines of random players slotting in and out of the lineup. But every cloud has a silver lining. Because of all the injuries up and down the lineup, we were able to see the likes of Ondrej Kase, Derek Grant, Logan Shaw, and Chris Wagner rise to the call. Once the Ducks were able to get their healthy reinforcements, Randy Carlyle was able to start fitting pieces where they could excel. And that’s how this homestand’s 4 out of 5 wins came to be. Not only did the Ducks finally regain health of its main players, but they also found lines that worked to enhance the offense. It really did come at the right time just as we enter the All-Star Break.
Although we are still outside looking in, we are in a 4-way tie for that last Wild Card spot with Colorado, LA, and Minnesota. And Calgary and San Jose are only 1 and 2 points respectively ahead (although with a few games on hand). We all know that there is going to be some scratching and clawing until the last horn sounds.
While we are all hoping that Gibby is ok, the All Star break will be good for the guys to get a little rest before they come back and hit the road for the Canada trip. It was the elements of the successful homestand that is encouraging. It wasn’t just Gibby being Gibby. But we also so Ryan Getzlaf transforming to Captain Ryan Getzlaf. We saw a that bit of Corey Perry swag that we so often miss. We were reminded of how great the addition of Adam Henrique is to our team. We even saw some glimpses of the old Ryan Kesler we all miss and love. It looks like the team is finally starting to come together.
The Ducks need to be careful to keep up the energy through the entire 60 minutes of the game. What made most of this homestand great (exception being the San Jose game) was the momentum at which the Ducks played. The Ducks play their best at an upbeat and fast tempo, where they control the game. Basically keep pushing until the end of the game and don’t start turtling. Hockey can be fun—so keep those goals coming.